Tool Name: Yana

Version Number/Release Date: Authored October 28, 2011. Last updated June 19, 2012.

Developer Website: http://osc.hul.harvard.edu/yana

Reviewed by: Allison Wheatley

Review Date: February 9, 2015

Tags or Keywords: journal, mobile, mobile applications, template, app development, tool development, open source, html

General Purpose of Tool: Yana is an open source template for scholarly journals to develop mobile applications.  It is intended to allow publishers of open source journals to distribute their journal through a customized multi-platform mobile app without paying developers to create an app for them.

Review: Yana is a web application template developed by the Harvard Library Lab.  It was released in 2011, and changes were made through 2012.  However, since then, the website seems to have gone unattended.  According to documents on the website, including the final project report, the website has “documentation, screencasts, and tutorials on how to configure the application.”  These are no longer present, which makes using the template practically impossible for a publisher with no programming experience.

After downloading the source code for Yana, I located multiple JavaScript files within the folders.  When I opened them using my default program, Notepad, they did not look like the files briefly shown on the introduction video because all the lines ran together.  I had to download an appropriate text editor that could format a .js file: Notepad++.  The Yana website contained no information about this, which I only found out about from my husband, who programs Android apps using Java.  This was my first clue that Yana is actually intended for an open source journal publisher’s HTML programmers, not for anyone on the editorial board or journal staff.

The template object file, journal.js, includes some instructional comments.  They seem to be geared toward general users, but they are not sufficient to explain how to put one’s own content into the file or like to one’s own content.  Only by asking my husband could I figure out how to even attempt to insert my own content.  The labels must link to an existing webpage, and they will take the text from that webpage and put it in the Yana web application.  You cannot create your own HTML page, accessed through a local file path, and link to it.  You must link to a web URL.  We were able to change a label and link it to a Wikipedia page.  When I tried to do this with our Digital Humanities Blog, it was unsuccessful.  It may be the wrong kind of webpage, not static, or there may be another problem.  The overarching problem is that Yana provided no information about what kinds of web pages can be linked to.  They assume that an open source journal has the right kind of web page.  To try my next label, I used what appeared to be an html web page, which should be static– a demo journal from the Open Journal Systems website.  This had a different problem when I clicked on the label, but it still did not work.

Even if these labels had worked, Yana does not include the ability to convert the web application you create with it into a mobile application.  The language “we use PhoneGap” in Yana’s final project report actually means “you must use PhoneGap after you finish using Yana.”  PhoneGap is an open source framework that creates mobile apps from HTML, CSS, and JavaScript web applications.  I do not find this problematic, but Yana’s language was misleading in multiple places and at the least strongly implied that Yana creates a mobile application.

The web application that Yana does create is not a URL and only accessible from the local drive where the template is stored.  There are no instructions about how to make it live, unless this comes up when you put a successfully designed template (which I was unable to create) into PhoneGap.  For a programmer familiar with HTML, using templates, compatible web pages, and creating web pages, Yana may be a useful tool.  It is adaptable and could be used to access and organize text information other than journals.  It theoretically allows users to edit and replace icons, change the background, and customize the number and content of labels.  However, Yana must either maintain their instructional information on their website or admit that this is a tool for programmers.

Ease of Use: Yana sends conflicting messages about who its intended users are.  The introductory video states that, “it didn’t have to be programmers” when referring to Yana’s users, and this sentiment is echoed in many instances in the documentation.  However, the video also refers to “someone who does your website,” aligning with the November 2011 report’s statement that the publishers who use Yana should have “limited programming experience.”  Whatever Yana’s creators say, Yana, particularly with no tutorial material, is not usable for scholars without programming experience, and even for some people with limited programming experience in other areas.  It requires knowledge of how to code HTML web pages.

Cost: Free

Requirements: The template can be used on a Windows or Mac OS.  I conducted my review using Windows 7 on a PC.  In order to see the HTML5 code formatted in a useable way in Windows, I had to download the program Notepad++.  Used with PhoneGap, Yana results in a multi-platform mobile application, the most popular platforms being iPhone and Android.

Rival or Comparable Tools: Open Journal System (OJS) is an open source journal management and publishing system.  Users can view articles from many different journals using OJS.  OJS offers iOJS, a plugin that feeds a journal’s OJS data to an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch application.  Users can then store their favorite journals on their Apple mobile device.  Yana improves on iOJS by being multi-platform.  It also serves the different purpose of creating an app specific to one journal.

OJS: https://pkp.sfu.ca/ojs/

iOJS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iojs/id396906126?mt=8

Other Reviews: None found.

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